Curtis Underwood Jr. returns after redshirting in 2009, and most expect him to enter the season as the starter. Underwood, a 5-foot-11, 220-pound back capable of running between the tackles or on the perimeter, was named Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year last fall and fits well offensively as he is also a solid receiver out of the backfield.
The top backup could be 6'0, 190-pounder James Washington, a speedy back who played in six games as a true freshman before a knee injury ended his season.
"James is a young kid that has played a little bit for us and has a chance to do some special things," said Swepson. "I'm just looking forward to the season starting so we can see what these young guys can do."
Washington isn't the only "young guy" competing for playing time as NC State has two true freshmen who enrolled this summer as two of the top recruits in NC State's strong 2010 recruiting class.
Tony Creecy and Mustafa Greene
were highly-touted recruits.
Mustafa Greene was regarded as one of the top tailbacks in the country coming out of Irmo (SC) High School. He rushed for 6,079 yards during his high school career and held double-digit offers when he inked with the Wolfpack over Rutgers. Solidly-built and well-proportioned, Greene attacks the hole aggressively and reaches top speed in a hurry. He is an ideal fit for a pro-style offense and has turned heads early with his play.
Tony Creecy actually played mostly wideout for Southern (NC) Durham High School, but was recruited to play tailback by NC State. A consensus top-10 in-state prospect, Creecy caught 47 passes for 777 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior campaign, and he signed with the Wolfpack over dozens of offers from programs such as Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Duke, and North Carolina. At 6-foot and 230 pounds, Creecy runs extremely hard and his wide receiver background should make him a reliable target out of the backfield.
"Both of them are very talented," said James Washington. "Mustafa is the smaller one, but he's a very good player. He's going to be very good in the future.
"Tony Creecy, he's a big back. He came in around 230 pounds so you know he can definitely move the pile. I think he's going to be real good too."
Swepson has been pleased with what he has seen early from his two true freshmen backs.
"They've got tremendous talent, great talent," said Swepson. "When you've got that kind of talent you just hope they understand that they've got great talent and they do all the right things off the field because that's probably the only thing that can hold them back."
It sounds like Swepson has mostly been impressed with the work ethic both Greene and Creecy have shown throughout camp.
"Those two, they love to practice," he said. "They love to put the helmet on. When you have that, at that position, and as a young kid, you're never going to lose that.
"Those guys love to play the game. When you love to play the game, it doesn't matter if it's 200 degrees out or 20-below, you're still going to show up and want to play. We've just got to make sure they are doing the right things off the field so their talents can truly shine."
Creecy and Greene could learn a lot by simply following the example set by Wolfpack junior fullback Taylor Gentry. A high school wide receiver at Raleigh (NC) Leesville Road, Gentry didn't land any high-major scholarship offers following a senior season where he scored 21 touchdowns. He elected to walk-on at NC State and all he did was become of the Pack's most consistent players.
Gentry has started the past two seasons at fullback and was the Wolfpack's Special Teams Player of the Year in 2009. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a full scholarship prior to the 2009 season, and Swepson lights up when talking about his 6-foot-2, 250-pound fullback.
"He's got tremendous work ethic and probably one of the best on the team," Swepson said of Gentry. "The young kids see that, and it is instant respect. He's just a tremendous leader. I'm happy to have him.
"I heard Curtis say it this morning, [Gentry] only has one speed and that's full speed. If you're going half-ass against Gentry you're going to get hurt. He knows how to bring it. I didn't coach him how to do it, I think he learned that in high school. I remember his first practice coming out here as a walk-on freshman and laying the wood, setting the tone. Coach noticed that instantly, and he was on scholarship before I could know it."
When two high-level tailback prospects enroll together some would assume that there could be some tension as both are looking to work their way onto the field, but Swepson indicated that hasn't been the case with Greene and Creecy. They are working hard to get better and both have a chance to contribute sooner rather than later.
"I like how they've worked together," said Swepson. "This summer they bonded well. They became great frends, and I think they are pushing each other to be successful.
"At this point it's still a little too early to tell what kind of style they are. T.C. is obviously a little bigger than Mustafa, but that doesn't mean anything in power or speed. All of that will showcase itself on gameday."